Image via CNN
“I cannot put into words how heartbreaking it is to see grown adults that I know and love decide only now to take to the streets. I’m glad you’re doing something. But…weren’t we worth it before? Why weren’t we reason enough? Where have you been? And where will you be once this doesn’t impact you directly anymore?”
On Saturday, Olive and I joined millions of other women around the world at the Women’s March.
I remember reading a great quote many years ago that said you shouldn’t do anything for your children that they were capable of doing for themselves. I loved it, and kept it in mind for when I had my own kids. I’d be the mom whose kids were doing their laundry by age five! Fantastic.
But of course, as is always the case, people without kids make the best parents. When I actually had my own child, things suddenly looked a whole lot different. I found myself dealing with an actual human being, with her own desires and opinions, not the pleasantly compliant child of my imaginings.
I still believe in the message of that quote wholeheartedly (despite the sometimes-problematic nature of parenting “should’s ) but godDAMN is it easier said than done. Beyond lots (and lots) of reminders, there have been a few things I’ve found really help Olive become independent and self-reliant, and a lot of it has to do with how our home is set up.
My marriage split open on November 20, 2014, and I made the decision to end it on December 15, 2014.
I don’t think there’s ever really a good time for this sort of thing to happen, but doing it immediately before such a staggering season of events – Christmas, then my 31st birthday, then New Year’s and then Valentine’s Day – felt like a barrage of punches to the face in quick succession. Bam bam bam bam bam.
That first Christmas, I invited Olive’s dad to spend Christmas day with us. I was in shock and I didn’t know quite what else to do. I was still trying to pretend things were normal, desperate for Olive to hold onto the sense that things were fine, even though I knew they would soon be very, very different.
Decidedly NOT a parenting-win moment, captured on film: Me whisper-yelling at Olive during my sister’s wedding. Ahhh memories.
I share a lot of my parenting trials and tribulations with you guys, and I think it’s important to do so. Without sharing those parts – where I fail and falter and lose my shit – it’s way too easy to accept an edited, filtered, Instagram version of reality, and we all know that’s bullshit, right? You can’t crop out the mess in real life and nor should you try – that’s where the beauty and the learning live.
I do like to share some positives too, though, and that’s what this list is. I think we all need to write lists like this every so often and then pin them to the inside of our bathroom mirrors or slide them under our pillows, so that whenever the weight of being a parent feels like it’s crushing you, you can pull it out and see some wins.
We need to do this because jesus christ this thing is hard. It’s hard for me when 75% of the time it’s only me, it’s hard for parents of multiple kids, it’s hard for parents with spouses deployed, it’s hard for parents of children with special needs. And even if you’re a “normal” parent with a supportive, helpful spouse and a strong community and financial security and healthy kids it’s still hard because holy shit this parenting gig ain’t easy for anyone.
It is lovely; it is intolerable; it is both.
This was the succinct, brutal description of motherhood written by Rufi Thorpe in her recent essay for Vela Mag, titled Writer, Mother, Monster, Maid (and my god, even if you’re a mother who’s never written anything more than a grocery list in your lifetime, go read it.)
I devoured the piece in minutes, stunned that a woman I’d never met could so accurately sum up my experience of both writing and motherhood. She took the aimless, itchy, angry frustration I so often feel and put it into words so finely chosen that I found myself wanting to cry or cheer, or both.